These past two weeks have flown by as we continue to learn more about our users and the complexity of their individual struggles to find acceptance and a lasting sense of community. By creating user personas and delving deep into research about rapid rehousing projects, every day we continue to be in awe of the resilience and courage of these people.
In our weekly meeting, we were able to really get to the core of understanding the kind of rejection LGBTQIA+ kids face and the immense challenges they have to overcome both on the streets and in finding the love in themselves to accept who they are. When we met with Brooke from the QRC, they offered us a ton of insights about how we can remain respectful of boundaries, privacy, and gender identity while still getting more personalized insights into the needs of our user base.
The current organizations currently working to help our targeted user base like Hatch Youth and the Montrose Center, True Colors Fund, Lambda Legal, and Tony’s Place have been super useful to understand how current initiatives have made huge strides to advocate. One thing that we have realized, however, is the absence of autonomy, empowerment, and determination by the LGBTQIA+ youth. These organizations are super helpful to get the ball rolling for these kids by giving them the basic resources. The problem is that lot of times homeless youth either don’t know what resources are available to them in the first place or once they get help, because of logistical restrictions or strict enforcement of rules, a lot of individuals end up back on the streets.
An example of the challenges faced by these individuals on their conquest for acceptance is embodied by Angel. After Angel’s grandmother died at age 14, he moved in with his aunt who did not recognize his gender identity and then forced him to live in a closet, with no bed, and pay $200 weekly rent. Afterwards, he went on to a youth shelter, which did not accept his identity and forced him to sleep in a female dorm where he was subsequently faced with abuse by the other homeless teens. It was when Angel went to the LGBTQ shelter that he finally was accepted and aided in his transition.
A few broad insights that we gathered from user persona research (because we haven’t been able to visit Hatch Youth yet) are:
- many individuals rely on survival sex and hook up apps to make money
- drugs are often large threats in their environments
- many homeless shelters will discriminate against LGBTQIA+ individuals forcing them to sleep in dorms with people that do not correspond with their gender identity
- foster parents can legally kick out LGBTQIA+ kids for “posing a problem”
- many individuals are not aware of the resources that are available to them
We believe that by fostering a sense of empowerment, community, and gender affirmation LGBTQIA+ youth will begin to embrace their diversity and understand why their differences make them beautiful. Boom. Homemade pride.
P.S. Clair got an iPhone 8 and took this beautiful portrait mode picture of Angelo and Emma at our meeting with Brooke from the QRC!